Yoga Sutra 1.47
Translation and Commentary
From further purification of nirvichara samadhi (meditation that transcends the realm of thought altogether) spiritual illumination ensues.
nirvicāra = nir + vicāra
- nir without
- vicāra thinking; inner reflection; analysis; contemplation
Together, nirvicāra refers to the state of samadhi that transcends the realm of thinking; the samadhi devoid of the thought process.
vaiśāradye locative of vaisharadya. Upon purification, transparency; upon infusing it with sattvic qualities; upon filling it with pure virtues or the virtue of purity
adhyātma spiritual; seated in spirit; having the soul at its core
prasādaḥ illumination; enlightenment; happiness; joy; transparency
When Samadhi Becomes an Obstacle
Although any form of samadhi is better than no samadhi, attachment to the experience of samadhi preventing an aspirant to move on to the higher levels of samadhi is, in the ultimate sense, an obstacle. This particular sutra explains how the experience of sabija samadhi can become an obstacle and offers a solution.
While you continue reinforcing your establishment in sabija samadhi, make sure you fill this samadhi with virtues that add to the purity of your mind.
As described in the previous sutra, through practice, meditation on both gross and subtle objects matures into sabija samadhi (samadhi with seeds). Sabija samadhi is a stage in meditation where the mind is so clear, calm, and tranquil that a yogi is able to see everything that lies in his or her inner world, including the most subtle causes of his or her thought, speech, and actions. Sabija samadhi leaves its own subtle impressions on the mind. In other words, meditation creates its own groove, motivating the mind to repeat the similar action of meditation.
Here in sutra 1.47, Patanjali is making a very important point: after reaching this state of sabija samadhi, spiritual enlightenment will be yours only if you further infuse this samadhi with sattvic virtues. If you do not commit yourself to a higher level of inner purification, sabija samadhi may grant you a one-pointed mind but that one-pointedness does not necessarily confer a spiritual benefit. Spiritual benefit can be ensured only if your one-pointed mind emerging from sabija samadhi is fortified and guided by the sattvic virtues of buddhi, your inner intelligence.
Sabija samadhi has an inherent drawback, one you must overcome in order to move forward in your inner journey. That drawback is that in sabija samadhi you are confronted with the revelation of everything you are made of—your strengths and weaknesses, your vice and virtues, and the binding and releasing forces of your mind and senses. By nature, the mind preserves all the subtle impressions (seeds) of our past, and in sabija samadhi you have the opportunity to see them, at least in part. You might realize, for example, that in a previous life you were murdered by a Hindu or abducted by a Muslim. If this revelation causes you to develop anti-Hindu or anti-Muslim attitudes, it will block your spiritual growth. A revelation that you were a high lama in a prestigious Tibetan monastery in a previous life may cause you to fixate on the idea of going back to that monastery. That too will distract you from your goal.
In other words, if you are not careful, the revelations that arise in sabija samadhi can overwhelm, haunt, and confuse you. A negative revelation can infuse you with a sense of unworthiness and a positive one can make you become egotistical. Both are equally damaging.
This sutra offers a solution. While you continue reinforcing your establishment in sabija samadhi, make sure you fill this samadhi with virtues that add to the purity of your mind.
In Sanskrit there are many words for “purity.” Patanjali’s selection of the word vaisharadye in this sutra explains what kind of purity will truly enable the mind to overcome the hurdles that may appear in sabija samadhi. This particular word, vaisharadye evolves from vaisharada, which literally means “the essential qualities, characteristics, and attributes of the goddess Sharada.”
Sharada is another name of Sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom and creativity who is the inherent shakti (power) of the Creator himself. In Indian mythology, this goddess is described as sitting on a white swan swimming in a lake of milk. In one of her four hands, the goddess holds a white lotus in full bloom. In another, she holds a book. And with her other two hands, she plays her celestial vina (a stringed instrument). From the music of her vina the life force begins to pulsate. Sleeping souls come to life. Sitting on her pure white swan, she floats on the lake of the mind. She witnesses the entire lake and everything it holds, and yet remains above it all. Knowing all and yet remaining unaffected by what she knows is her essence. Embracing this essence as part of one’s spiritual practice is what enables a meditator to cross the hurdles raised by meditative revelations. Only after these hurdles have been crossed is a meditator blessed with the lasting joy that resides at the core of the soul.
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than a quarter of a century, he is the author of fourteen books, including his recently-released The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and his autobiography Touched by Fire: The Ongoing Journey of a Spiritual Seeker. Pandit Tigunait holds two doctorates: one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad in India, and another in Oriental Studies from the... Read more>>